Category Archives: memory

Whoops/More memory triggers

Already slacking in one resolution. Kind of. I haven’t neglected to write anything last week, but what I wrote I’ve been unable to edit into something I want to post, so I think I’ll abandon it for a little while to let it stew.

Instead, I’ll share a little something else, something slightly more superfluous. I was going to post this earlier this week, but it got really busy at work and I haven’t been able to edit it until now.

I’m a sucker for candles. Really, any good-smelling kind of things, like incense and wax, but candles were my first love as far as good-scented things go. There’s nothing quite like lighting one up and letting it burn, taking in the scent as the flame dances on the wick. So, whenever I walk by a candle aisle, I sneak a peek to see if anything catches my eye. Sometime last week, or perhaps the week before, as the fiance and I were in Target, we walked by an aisle that had a candle set up at the end of it. One in particular – Glade’s “Frosted Cookie Party” – caught my eye, and I grabbed it for a quick sniff. The scent was wonderful, but had a slightly different effect on me than I thought it would. Instead of reminding me of cookies, it reminded me of a certain toy I had when I was younger.

As far as toys went as a child, my tastes were pretty diverse. I’d play rough and tumble with my boy neighbors and their toy guns and wooden horses. I wasn’t afraid of getting too dirty, as I loved playing in the dirt and sand and making mud pies. I had quite the collection of hot wheels. I also had tons of girly dolls and Barbies. One in particular was a collection called Cupcake dolls. They had wide skirts with a rubber base that you could flip up and, along with their hat, make them look like a cupcake. They had no legs, as the rubber was sturdy enough to support their weight when they were in doll form. They had all kinds of accessories that transformed from sweet treats into practical accessories, like a banana split that turned into a vanity.

One of the really cool things about them, though, was the way they smelled. It was a light, sugary, vanilla kind of smell. It smelled exactly like that candle. One whiff and I was transported back to that bedroom in Georgia, transforming treat-looking toys into a vanity and a shower set up and a bed and a kitchen. Days of complex play, setting up chair-and-blanket forts and lining up porcelain dolls and searching for that perfect outfit combination for my Barbies and setting up a city to run my hot wheels through. My room was a magical space. And when I got a play area set up in the basement, I still remember clearly how it was like. It was the lone carpeted area in the section of the otherwise concrete-floored storage area of the basement. It smelled a little musty, but it didn’t bother me. I had a dresser or vanity of some sort that marked the border of the carpet along one end. It had a record player set up there, though I didn’t really use it. I think it was probably just set there at some point. I had a doll house there, probably some Barbie variety. My Polly Pockets, though, I kept in my room, as they were small and I worried about losing them in the vastness of the basement room (this was, of course, back in the day when Polly Pockets could actually fit in your pockets).

When we moved to International Falls, I had to cut down on a lot of my toys. I didn’t have a lot of the expensive variety, but I accumulated a lot (I was the last child my parents had, later in their life, so I had plenty of doting relatives and family friends to fling trinkets my way) and especially with the space I had to work with, it was accepting of a lot. Going from my large room with an alcove plus a basement play room to one small room meant cutting down on a lot. I ended up leaving a bunch of my toys for the children of the family that moved into our house to rent it from us, so the ones left behind were enjoyed.

Over the years, I’ve lost the vast majority of the things from the childhood between moves. Most of the things I don’t really care about, though I have lost a few things I truly regret leaving behind. I become quite attached to certain things. I’m working on letting go, because it causes me anxiety that I really cannot do anything about. Some things still nag at me, but I’m getting better at it. I’ll at least always have the memories, something will always come up that will transport me back to that little slice of magic that was my room.



Ah, camp. That lovely invention of summer that gives kids something to do during the break and parents a week or so of sanity, rest, and relaxation. I never went to camp as a small child, as I was very clingy and dependent on my parents growing up, besides being immensely shy and awkward. But by the time I was a teen, I decided to give it a try once I found a particular camp.

Northland Camp & Conference Center in Dunbar, Wisconsin, was my summer go-to from ages 13-17. It was a religious camp and my only experience with camp. The schedule was somewhat grueling and included required activities that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but I still liked it enough to request to keep going. I’m not sure if it was the idea of going to camp that I liked so much, or that I just convinced myself that I liked it, as looking back on it, the experience was pretty overrated. Fun, but overrated.

Wakeup was always early, because any getting-ready things that needed to be done had to be done by the time all the cabins were to line up for the daily flag raising. Then we had breakfast, followed by cabin devotions. The exact schedule varied day-to-day after that. Sometimes we’d have a cabin activity, or a camp bible session. We always had a morning chapel, at least. After lunch there were sometimes other bible sessions, team game activities (which I loathed, as I hated that kind of thing, but I couldn’t opt out), and then maybe a few hours of free time before dinner and evening chapel. One night a week we’d have an after-dark activity. There was also usually a water day that went along with the team games, but I remember one year it was so cold they almost had to cancel it. There was also a loooooong list of bible verses to memorize. That part wasn’t necessarily required, but it garnered your team lots of points, so it was always pressured.

Even though free time was pretty limited, they had many options with how to spend the time. They had a bookstore and coffee shop on site. There was an archery range. A shooting range. A climbing wall. Many, many trails for walking. A craft shop. A mini-golf course. And, of course, they had a large pond where one could use one part for boating and the other for swimming. I never got a chance to participate in the swimming, because you had to have a buddy with you, and since I never came with anyone (a lot of kids came as part of a church group) and I didn’t make friends too easily, I never had someone to go with. There’s probably other little things that I’ve forgotten about, too, but those are the major ones that stand out in my memory.

When I was 15 going on 16, my mother and I went to a special ladies retreat in Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is a lovely area, and we relished the time we spent on our little mini-vacation. I don’t remember who hosted the event or who was running it, but it featured at least a couple of people associated with Northland’s ministries, because I remember it came up in talking with a couple of women. I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but they suggested that I attend the Leadership Camp that Northland offered.

I was immediately hesitant about it, but we said we would think and pray about it. Ultimately, despite my initial hesitation, I ended up attending. Leadership Camp is two weeks instead of one, weekend stay included. The first week is pretty similar to the regular Teen Camp; we participated in all of their activities and are assigned a team, just like them, however we had our own special little sessions and individual counseling with various staff members. The second week was spent being a junior counselor in either the Kid or Teen Camps, along with a regular counselor. We also still had our special sessions and individual counseling sessions. The weekend was fairly open, compared to the week. We usually had a big group trip/activity on Saturday. Sunday we would go to a local church and sing.

The first year I went, when I was 16, I was in a deep denial of myself, my life, and my beliefs. While I had some doubts, I convinced myself of my faith and was in the midst of throwing myself into it with all of my energy. So my first year of Leadership Camp was pretty awesome. I bonded better with the other campers that joined me, probably because they were here purposefully and not just as something to do over the summer. We all had ministry aspirations. We rejoiced in our kindred hearts and drew close together, sharing our burdens and our hearts with each other and praying with one another.

The second year, however, did not go as smoothly. My denial had broken through into major issues for me. I had adopted a more goth-like look in terms of clothes and makeup. I was extremely depressed and stressed in general. I was having trouble dealing with certain traumas in my life that I felt I couldn’t get help for. Despite that, I still went, because I remembered the wonderful time I’d had and I yearned to be around people that were as kind and friendly and wonderful as I’d met the previous year.

While my fellow campers were still very nice to me, the counselors and staff were more stand-offish. I’m sure they likely remembered me from all the years I’d been attending, and my sudden change in appearance was fairly shocking. I still attended all of the sessions, still took copious amounts of studious notes, asked questions, memorized scripture, participated in everything, even if I didn’t want to. But they seemed to treat me differently, based on my looks and regardless of participation.

This became apparent during my first individual counseling session. I met with a lady in the ministry at Northland – a pastor’s wife, no less – and at first it seemed to be fairly the same as the last year. She was a different lady than the year before, but I knew her still, if only from a distance. However, not far into the session, she made a comment about my appearance being “goth”. I replied that I liked black and felt comfortable, which was true. I wasn’t wearing anything extreme, just a black shirt and black pants with thick black eyeliner. Compared to some goth kids I’d seen in the mall, I was pretty tame. But she apparently felt the need to comment on it and make a negative insinuation of it.

I brushed it off, thinking that she was probably just surprised at what would appear to her to be a sudden change. As we talked more and she dug deeper, I did confess issues with depression, especially following sexual abuse I’d suffered at the hands of a previous boyfriend. I don’t remember everything about the session, but what I distinctly remember is that she asked for as many details as I would give her (I didn’t give her much, as I didn’t feel comfortable doing so) and she simply advised me to be careful upon going home, that I wouldn’t be tempted into immorality with another man.

I remember being utterly shocked at her reaction. She didn’t necessarily invalidate the abuse itself, but she completely invalidated my feelings about it and my reactions to it (I had a lot of trouble even looking a man in the eye at the time, there was no way I wanted anyone to even touch me). I felt like she didn’t take it seriously, because she didn’t. She threw some bible verses at me, I’m sure, but I was in a haze of shock at the lack of support and empathy.

Despite the staff reaction, like I said, the other campers treated me the same. The group I was with my last year seemed to be a little looser, though still just as fervent. There was even a few regular Teen Campers who noticed my dress, asked if I was a “Christian Goth”, and immediately bonded with me over it. It must not be so bad, I reasoned as I walked to evening chapel with them.

However, that little hope came late in the second week. Before the second week even started, I was pulled aside and told – by the husband of the same lady I met with for counseling – that because of my “personal struggles”, I was deemed unfit to counsel the age group that I would be normally assigned to. Instead, I would be assigned to a younger group and paired up with the counselor I’d been with so far, I’m guessing in an effort for stability through the transition into the second week.

It was a devastating blow to me, especially because despite my struggles, I still had a heart for ministry and was still aching for chances to prove myself. My chin quivered and tears welled up in my eyes as he told me, but I refused to let them fall. I would not give in. I would not give him the satisfaction of confirming that I was indeed “broken” and that their decision was correct.

Later that night, in my bunk, I allowed myself some quiet tears, my face buried in my pillow to quell any sounds that might escape. Again, I refused to show any weakness, to anyone. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. I had to go it alone, because I was alone. Utterly and completely alone.

That year was the last year for me, as I’d reached the maximum age that they accepted. As I left, I clung desperately to the good memories. Laughing with newly made friends. The smell of the morning mist as it rolled in while we lined up for flag-raising. Sitting in the open courtyard in between rows of cabins, listening to a fellow Leadership Camper strum a guitar and complain about the confiscation of his Grateful Dead CD’s. The instant camaraderie felt by others who weren’t the “norm” as far as appearances went in the conservative Christian community.

However, the good just doesn’t cancel out the bad, as much as I wish it did. While I mostly enjoyed the time I spent there, the blatant condemnation and utter lack of any sympathy still linger. Like a cloud that suddenly appears on a sunny day, the rejection will always be there.

I suppose it’s all for the best, looking back, as it helped loosen some of my ties to the Christian community that was previously very tight. Because of the events that followed, I know I would have ended up leaving anyway, but this subtle bond breaking made it just slightly easier, and I guess that’s all I could have asked for.

So, if anyone who knows me from that camp reads this, if you were one of those who accepted me regardless, thank you. Your love and acceptance were and are greatly appreciated. If you were one of those who judged me instead of offering support, I also say thank you. If not for you, my journey to discover my true self and eventually into transitioning into Paganism would have been rougher, tougher, and more ridden with guilt and anxiety than it already was. Thank you for showing me your true colours, for without that, it would have been harder to show mine.

~Shine on~


So, taking a break from my home remembrances (which is nearly finished), I thought I would take a moment to reminisce about various jobs I’ve worked at.

I got my first job at 17. It was a pretty basic cashiering job at a local store in Wausau called Fleet Farm, just off of Highway 51 on Badger Ave. I had been desperately trying to get a part time job and they were the first to bite. I think I may have made around $8/hour, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I have back problems and of course we had to stand for hours at a time. We couldn’t even lean on anything because it was seen as “unprofessional” (I had been leaning at one point and I got a call at my register because they had been watching the video feed and saw that I was leaning). Those black mats did very little, if anything, to alleviate any discomfort.

In this, I shared a first job type of experience with my bestest best friend in the whole wide world, my soul-twin, Sara. She also got her first job working as a cashier, although she worked at Pick N Save on Schofield Ave. We loved to trade cashiering stories with each other. We were the Retail Hell Underground before RHU ever launched.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to stay at Fleet Farm for long. I nabbed a job at a department store called Younkers that was one of the “cornerstone” stores in the mall. Younkers is a regional chain who, while I was working there, was a division of Saks, although in 2006 it was sold to The Bon-Ton. I started in September and worked there part-time through February of the next year. Working there during the whole holiday season is the reason I despise probably about 99% of Christmas music. They had their own little station they tuned in to, and it cycled through the same songs every single day. I swear, if I hear “Santa, baby” one more goddamn time, there will be blood.

After that, I faltered a bit in the job market. It took me months to nab another job, but I managed to get my favourite job that I’ve had so far at Hsu Ginseng.

I didn’t get a whole lot in terms of pay, but even years later, it’s still the best job I’ve ever had, hands down. I worked in the warehouse, filling orders. Race wise, Caucasians were in the minority; most who worked there were either Chinese (working as sales reps) or Hmong (working in the sorting and grading area). I think there were five Caucasians there when I was there, so it was kind of interesting, culture-wise, to see something different so close, in a nigh immersion type of experience.

When we had a company meal, there were American dishes, certainly, but there were quite a bit of ethnic food, and let me tell you, those Hmong women from the grading area sure knew how to put out a spread. That was the first time I’ve ever had purple potatoes and they were fantastic. I think they were just baked, but they were incredible. It’s kind of difficult to describe the taste … almost flowery, maybe? They mostly taste similar to regular potatoes, but there’s just a spot of different in flavour that’s hard to describe. If you like potatoes, especially anywhere near as much as I like them, you’ll like the purple variety.

The only reason I left that job is because my family moved to Pennsylvania in 2006. I initially got a job working in the warehouse part of the same company as my father, but I was fired over a little piddling bit of bullshit (meanwhile, the guy who kept sexually harassing me was kept on). I was initially very upset about it – it was the first time I’ve ever been fired – but in reflection, it was a good thing, because if they aren’t going to fire someone over witnessed sexual harassment, it’s not a company I would want to work for.

In a few months, I found another job, this time working as a CSR for Guardian Protection. It was definitely nowhere near the top of my list of good jobs. It wasn’t so much the job atmosphere, it was just the job itself. I am just not an over-the-phone customer service kind of person. It was extremely stressful and I was having difficulties with sleep during my time there. So of course when my then-boyfriend told me about a contract that was coming up with a company he was affiliated with that would be very lucrative and beneficial for him, I put in my notice and ended up quitting in July 2007.

Huge mistake. The deal fell through and we ended up with neither of us having jobs. I secured another job at Mitsubishi Electric in October, I believe, filling orders in their warehouse, but it didn’t last too long. For starters, I started off in one department doing one job. Then all of a sudden, they switched me to another department doing a much more mind-numbing job, but I was promised that it would only be temporary. It wasn’t, and I ended up extremely frustrated because I was obviously having quite a bit of financial troubles (Mitsubishi paid less than Guardian) and the “temporary” job was so boring, really it only afforded me time to fret over my troubles, which made my mental state worse. We ended up being evicted that December, and we had to move a bit of a ways away, so I quit.

Throughout 2008 was a real struggle for me. I tried desperately to find a job. I was in denial of my situation – living in an unheated camper trailer in the driveway of my boyfriend’s family – and I kept trying and trying to function. I applied for every job I could find and found some work through temp agencies. In January of that year, I started off as a receptionist for a company while their regular receptionist was on medical leave. There was a possibility she might not return, and I was told that if she didn’t, I would be offered the job. I worked my hardest and did my best, because I liked the job and the atmosphere and I got on well with the other employees. However, about a month or so later, the woman who hired me was giving a tour to another woman. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but she was then introduced to me as the person they’d hired to take over the position permanently. Just like that, I was out of a job, and in a rather painful way, too. True, I was technically only temporary, but I had been told I would get the job if the person did not return. They never expressed any kind of displeasure with my work, and it felt like I’d been stabbed in the back. I cried the whole way home that day.

I landed another temporary gig, but I quit that assignment after a couple of months because I never once did what I was told the job entailed (they were “getting computers set up” a process that apparently takes a couple of months after giving a job description to a temp agency), and I felt it was very deceptive. They also had a very particular dress code that was difficult for me to adapt to (being as I was less than dirt poor). I could wear jeans and t-shirts and the like, but there was absolutely no skin that could show when bending down. Of course, the job I ended up doing – keep in mind, the job that I was not hired for in any way, manner, shape, or form – required me to bend over a lot, and my shirts would ride up some and expose a little bit of skin. Not much skin, and no crack or anything like that, but just a little bit of back skin. Even a tiny glimpse was unacceptable, so after being reprimanded several times, I finally came in one day in the biggest shirt my then-boyfriend owned, looking slovenly and sloppy as shit, and I asked if that was fine. Unbelievably, they said yes. I quit that day.

My then-boyfriend’s step-mother worked with a park that ran a seasonal store, and I was initially hired on there to help out. Now, since I hadn’t grown up in Pennsylvania, much less the immediate area, I disclosed up front, in the interview, that I didn’t know a lot about the area and its features, but I was always open to learning about it and I had no problem doing so. I initially started as a full-time person, at manager-level, actually (yay!) and I ran the store. We didn’t get a whole lot of traffic, but it was fairly early in the boating and boat tour season, so I figured we would probably get more as time went on (it didn’t while I was there, probably because the group had next to no marketing skills and the store was tucked away in the park). We hosted a fundraiser during that time with a silent auction, and I actually spent a whole day running around and getting donations of gift certificates for them to use (I was compensated, obviously, for my time and gasoline). They ended up hiring two more people, as they’d planned to do, and I only actually met one of them (the other worked an opposite schedule to me). However, a couple of weeks after the third was hired on, I was told that they wanted to let me go. Why? Because I didn’t know the area well. Now, keep in mind, I had told them that up front, and I pointed that out to her, but she insisted they no longer wanted me in my full time position. I tearfully asked for a part-time position that I knew was open, because I really really needed a job, no matter how low the pay, and she agreed to start me on that schedule. However, it was only a couple of weeks later that they let me go for good. I was furiously angry, as the cited reason was something I myself had disclosed up front, so they could have avoided going to the trouble of hiring me and firing me by just not hiring me in the first place, but I didn’t have to exert any revenge. A big part of their little park program was owl rescue and education, and they had a beautiful owl that was basically their poster bird. Within a month after my final firing, the bird got loose during a demonstration and flew off, never to be seen again. Karma’s a heartless bitch sometimes.

I got another job soon after, though, a temp-to-hire position in the medical records department of a doctor’s office. They were still solely using paper charts at the time, so I spent my days fetching charts and putting them back and adding stuff to them. It wasn’t the most enjoyable job, but it was pretty easy, and I really liked the woman I worked closely with. She often remarked that I was the quickest trained employee she’d ever worked with, and she was very happy with me. It then came as a shock when I got a call from my temp agency as I was driving home one day, saying that the office no longer needed my services. I smelled the bullshit on that, because we had just been gearing up for a file audit and we really needed all the help we could get. It would have been impossible for the woman I worked with to do everything herself, and I’m sure the woman I worked with was furious (she wasn’t involved in any HR stuff, she was simply the only other file clerk, so she was supervisor and trainer by default rather than by any actual title). I asked him if they gave a reason, and he said no, just that they’d told him they no longer needed me. Again, shades of bullshit. I asked him to look into it for me and let me know, and I explained why. He never called me back, so I’m still at a loss as to what exactly happened.

The last job I had in 2008, and the last job I had for a long time was at a pizza shop that a couple of my friends worked at. It was the first food service job I’d had, but I liked it. The pay wasn’t fantastic, but I liked it there. I tell you what, I can make a mean pizza. 😉 It wasn’t meant to last, however. One night, I ended up working until close with only a manager, a guy who was extremely lazy.  I hated working alone with him, because as soon as he could, he’d go back in the office and just hang out in there the whole time. I hadn’t gotten to stretching the dough in my training yet, so if there was an order for a pizza in a size that wasn’t already stretched, I had to practically beg him to come out and stretch me some dough. That night, I got a call from a person who wanted to place a pre-order for lunch the next day. I had never done something like that before, and I wasn’t trained to do something like that, so naturally I put him on hold and went back to the office to ask the manager to take the call. He refused. He said to just take down what the guy wanted. I told him I wasn’t trained, and he said all I needed to do was just get what he wanted. The guy ended up asking questions that I couldn’t answer, but I did the best I could, as the manager was obviously in no interest of helping me. The next day, when I came in, I was brought to the office and fired. Apparently, the guy wasn’t satisfied with the answers to his questions and he called in that morning to cancel the whole order, so I was fired because of the lost business. I broke down in there and I explained the whole situation, but the manager guy was in really good with the owners, so of course since it was his word against mine, I was the one to leave. I was pissed off to no end by the blatant favouratism of a lazy-ass employee, but I had no recourse.

After that, I spiraled downward into a state of depression so severe, I ended up on eeking out on welfare for a while, because I had no other options at that point. I won’t go into detail about it here, because this is a long post anyway, but I’ll cover it at some point.

The next job I got, I started in October 2012. I was in my next to last term of school, and one of my schoolmates recommended me at her job. It was technically in my field, and they didn’t mind that I was still going to school, so they hired me on. I did radiology billing for four radiology groups in the Northeast Ohio area. I didn’t like dealing with some of the patients calling in about their bill, but the rest of the job was – dare I say – enjoyable. I even got to take over working claim rejections, and I was thrilled with my work. I really hated to leave that job, and I only did because I moved to Minnesota. I’d broken up with my then-boyfriend and decided to start over, as my brother offered me a place to stay. It ended up being a good thing anyway, because they were soon bought by another company and then that office was shut down and everyone lost their jobs. I still keep in touch with quite a few people from that job. We were like a wacky family. Our supervisor, Colleen, seemed to have a language of her own, but we all understood her and what she wanted. She rarely ever got anyone’s name right on the first or even second try of calling out to us, yet we always knew who she was talking to, even if it was the name of someone else working there. We had some good laughs, and I look back on it with fondness.

After I moved to Minnesota, I started desperately looking for a job, as I only had limited funds with which to pay needed bills. I found one a month after I got here and I started in early October 2013. It was another over-the-phone customer service position, this time at Minnesota Life Insurance. I was in the claims department, and I did claim-related things, like starting them, checking status, sending forms, and the like. It was a very high stress job, and even though I liked the people I worked with, again, I just couldn’t handle it. I had gotten the job through a temp agency for a six month assignment with the possibility of being hired on after that initial period, but I started job hunting and turned in my notice in February, just a little shy of the six month mark. I did get offered a permanent job there, as I did good work, but I couldn’t stay there. I was becoming an alcoholic and it simply wasn’t healthy for me. When I walked out on my last day, I put in my ear buds and blasted Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” as I left for the last time.

And, that brings me up to my current job. I started in February 2014 for Healthport, a copy service that contracts at various hospitals and doctor’s offices processing records requests. I now spend my days logging in requests, quality checking them, printing and sending electronic records, copying charts and microfiche, if needed, for historical records. It was a slight pay cut from Minnesota Life, but it was worth it for my mental health. Will I stay here forever? Who knows. I’ve learned that it’s pretty foolish to say anything for certain when it comes to the future, so for now, I’m just seeing where it’ll take me.

Childhood Homes – Part 3

The third move of my childhood had us in the North-central portion of Wisconsin, namely the Wausau area. We initially moved into a rental home in the city of Wausau, then out to a house in a rural area of Mosinee, and then back into the city of Wausau before we left the area for good (my mother excluded, as she returned after leaving my father).

We moved in January of 1999, and it was bitterly cold, but my father apparently just didn’t want to waste any time in leaving. He was never very specific in why he wanted to leave and give up the role of pastor. In fact, my mother begged him to stay as she loved the area we’d been in, but to no avail. His mind was made up and could not be changed.

The rental house was the same house I detailed a little in this post. The attic was nice and spacious and we also had an unfinished basement. The porch area was small, but it was very nicely decorated. I actually have a little trouble sometimes differentiating between our rental house in Wausau and the house that we ended up moving into after Mosinee, as they were right next to each other and were actually owned by the same man. The rental house faced Emerson St, though, so the whole living room/entryway was different, as the other house actually sat on the corner and faced Weston Ave. In the first house, my bedroom was on the first floor and I had windows facing the backyard and our future house. I used to have a daybed, but that was actually a lot of trouble as far as making the bed went, so my parents later got me just a plain ol’ regular bed. I still had trouble remembering to make the bed, but at least it was easier when my parents nagged me about it. 😛 The first floor bathroom, I can’t really remember, and I think I might be getting it mixed up with the other house. They really were pretty similar!

That house also had another first for me: hardwood floors! The only other houses I’d lived in previously had some sort of carpet. I was homeschooled at that point, and I did the videos from Pensacola Christian Academy. Oh my gods, I remember some of those videos were recorded as far back as 1989 … when I was but 2 years old! The curriculum hadn’t really changed though, which as I look back and think on it, is kind of sad. Certainly they weren’t ALL that old, but I think the newest video was recorded in 1997, and they tended to run from 1991-1993. I watched the lessons in the living room and did my work at a set up there.

We ended up moving not even a year later … September of 1999, maybe? I can’t quite remember. My school area then changed up a couple of times while I was there. I think it was initially upstairs in the study, but then it changed to downstairs in the finished basement in my dad’s study, as it was quieter and there were less distractions. I was only thus homeschooled the rest of sixth grade, and then seventh and eighth grade. From my freshman to my junior year, I attended a very small Christian school.

The house in Mosinee was in a rural area. We had a pretty large backyard that included a sand volleyball court and a pool (which we rarely used, because it was above ground, there was no heater, and with no heater it was very cold!). We ended up adding a storage shed in the back of the property, and I remember very vividly helping my father set up the steel beams and handing him materials so he could put together the metal building. It was a pretty easy operation, overall. Later on, we also expanded the bathroom into the old pantry for the kitchen, and then moved the sink countertop from a long counter running along the center of the kitchen (that made the kitchen extremely small and was incredibly impractical) and put it against the actual wall so it was just a wide and open space. We also expanded the garage into a three car garage before I started driving (I can’t remember if it was originally a one or two car setup). Of course, it wasn’t long after we did all of the remodeling that we ended up moving. 😛

We spent the most time in the house in Mosinee. I think my parents liked it because it was a little out of the way, sort of in the country like they’d been used to in Georgia. A big difference though, besides the fact that we weren’t as remote as in Georgia, was that the yard was a lot easier to mow, so we had to keep it kept up. At the house in McDonough, besides being remote, we were at the foot of a hill that made especially our front yard very uneven and almost impossible to properly mow. We had a lot of tree coverage, though, so the grass didn’t grow too much. In Mosinee, though, we didn’t have a lot of trees and it was pretty open, so the grass grew rather well.

For mowing we used a riding lawnmower, because of the size of the yards, and to clean up afterward, we had an attachment that we hooked onto a four-wheeler that we ran to get up all the clippings. Funny, I remember my mother usually mowed the lawn. My father rarely did it, citing allergies … however, as long as I can remember, my mother’s allergies were more sensitive and severe than my father’s allergies. He was probably just a baby. Or lazy. Or both. I’m convinced he has some narcissistic qualities, if not a full-blown disorder, so an inability to see beyond his own problems is par for the course, and I think he only gets worse as he gets older. I remember wondering about the whole allergy thing as a teenager. If it was that obvious to me, even as fully entrenched in our family and naive as I was then, I wonder how many other things slipped under my radar? My guess is quite a bit.

Anyway, sometimes I was allowed to run the four-wheeler to pick up the clippings. I had to wear a breathing apparatus and I couldn’t go too fast, but it was a lot of fun. Hot, sweaty, fun work. I might think it more of a chore nowadays, but when the novelty is all shiny and new, it’s hard to see past it. 🙂

There was also a very large field in the back of our house that was owned by a family down the way. They didn’t mind if we rode our four wheelers (or drove our Ford Ranger around … which I did several times before I got my license and thoroughly enjoyed it!) around in it. It was just an unkempt field. Beyond it was woods. A few trails. Some hunting spots. I used to like to walk around (when it wasn’t hunting season) back there. I sometimes have dreams about walking back there and going even further, like there was something beyond that I never discovered (the furthermost trail I found terminated in a lake, so not sure what would be past it!).

When we moved back into Wausau, we were back in the same area as before, since our house was right next to the rental place we’d had. It was previously lived in by an older couple, and the woman moved out after her husband died. It also had wood floors, which were quite lovely. Before we moved in, we added on to the garage to make it a three car and finished the basement. My room was the basement room, which was quite nice as I was a senior in high school and it was like having a little apartment. When walking into the kitchen entrance, one could just go down the basement steps and into my room, bypassing the entire house. I even had a bathroom in there and I set up a TV and later my ps2 there. The only thing I was lacking was a refrigerator and a microwave; I would have been good to go! Of course, my parents would have rarely seen me. 😛

By that point, I was homeschooling for the last time in my school career, but I was doing it via a state-wide charter school, which was new for us. They gave us Mac iBook G4’s to use for school (that we unfortunately had to return at the end of the school year) and thus began my relationship with Apple products. I’ve loved them ever since. I set up the laptop on a table in my room, and after the laptop was returned, I set up my desktop computer there and even bought and put together a desk for it (an accomplishment I was quite proud of).

My maternal grandmother lived with us for a spell while we were in Wisconsin. She was actually moved in when we were still in Mosinee (and she was given my room, and I was relegated to a space in my father’s downstairs study, which he rarely used … I didn’t mind, though, it actually afforded me more privacy and gave me more of an escape). She was a hateful, manipulative old woman, and she pulled most of her shenanigans in the second Wausau house. I think my mother just wanted to try to mend things with her and help her one last time, but she ultimately proved that she was beyond help. She was schizophrenic, likely bipolar, a pathological liar and master manipulator. She was a dark cloud that hung around us at the end, but once she was gone, it was like a brand new day.

This was one area that I actually thought would be hard to leave, and it was probably harder than most because my most influential growing-up years were spent there. I met my bestest best friend in the whole wide world (who is quite literally my psychological twin), so that was probably the hardest part, leaving her behind. It’s actually where I would consider “home” to be; above the other places of my childhood, that is where I would really point to as my hometown. It’s also the place I pretty much know the best, navigation-wise (I don’t quite count International Falls as it was so small, it was hard to get lost!). When I was driving there to my mother’s house (well, to the Wal-Mart in Rib Mountain to meet her) when moving from Ohio, I kept thinking about driving “home”. So even my subconscious agrees with me, apparently.

Stay tuned for the house saga! The next entry on homes will be a bit bumpy, as after our family moved to Pennsylvania, things got a bit rocky for me for a while. The memories are a lot more vivid, for the most part, but I feel it’s still good to document them for the future.

And so far on our current place … there’s a few issues here and there, but mostly, fiance and I are glad to be out of my brother’s house and on our own. 🙂 Our cat, Inara, is still adjusting, but she’s much better than the super clingy mess she was at first. One day at a time.

Childhood Homes – Part 2

So, continuing in my series. 🙂 The home in McDonough, GA, was the first home I ever lived in. It was the only home I knew until March of 1997, when my family relocated to International Falls, MN so my father could take over as senior pastor at a church up there.

It was quite the culture shock. Even in March the snow was hip deep on me at 9 years old. We had visited there once before as a family, so I was familiar with snow, but the fact that this was now where we would be living started to set in as a reality.

The house we lived in for almost two years was a rental that was owned by one of the members in the church. It was a two-story (my first and only) with an unfinished basement. I remember being really excited that my bedroom was upstairs. I don’t know what it was, but I’d always had the childhood fantasy of having at least a two floor house and having a bedroom on an upper level. I’m not really sure why. Maybe the allure of the unknown? Nowadays, screw it, let everything be on one level. Fuck stairs. But back then, it was a new experience that I embraced wholeheartedly.

My room actually changed after we were there for a little while. When one walked up the stairs and went down the hall, there was a bedroom at the near end of the stairs, one in the middle, and the end of the hall terminated into the master bedroom. I initially had the middle bedroom, which was smaller but had a closet. I later moved into the other spare bedroom because it was roomier. The middle room was okay, but I really preferred the one on the end anyway. It had a window that looked out onto our postage-stamp sized backyard and garage, the back alley, and then a neighbor’s backyard and further still the neighborhood as a whole. The middle bedroom window just looked across at another house. No real view. The only nice thing was there was a tree beside it where a white-throated sparrow lived. I loved hearing the sound of its call. But I still preferred space and a better view.

The switch meant that the study was moved from the end bedroom and to the middle bedroom. That was where the computer got moved. By this point, we had internet, but I didn’t even know how to use it other than e-mail. And I didn’t know anybody’s e-mail address, so it didn’t matter anyway. We had a family Juno e-mail address but I can’t remember exactly what it was. To me, computers were only good for tetris, pinball, and paint. The most fun thing in paint I did was a basic basket weaving design, going pixel by pixel to create the pattern. I never saved it, I have no real clue why I did it. It was just fun, almost relaxing. I was an odd child. 😛

The kitchen, while small, had a sliding glass door that opened up onto a back porch. We loved cooking on the grill out there and the door was convenient and also provided a nice view for us. Another first for me, along with window blinds! The house in GA never had any blinds while I was there, only curtains, and I gotta say I really fell in love with blinds after that.

The garage sat directly in the back of the house, separated from the structure by a miniscule yard area (another first, again). There was an attic storage space in the garage, but I was scared to go up there because it was high up and the space between the creaky wooden steps did not help my vertigo. I remember, after a while of living up there, somebody broke into our garage and stole the CB radios my parents had in their cars that we had used for the cross-country move (since nobody in the moving party had cell phones). It was the only crime I was ever aware of living up there, so it was a bit startling, but it soon passed. We never really had any news coverage, so it’s hard to say what the crime was really like, but it was a quiet town with the feel of being stuck in the 50’s. We used to joke that if the world ended, it would take ten years for us to hear about it. At the time, International Falls didn’t even have their own news or radio station, we had to go on a station out of Duluth – three hours away! International Falls isn’t just a small town, it is very remote. But it was lovely.

It was the kind of town where I could ride my bike to the library and back alone with no fear. Or down to the grocery store to run an errand for my mother. I think the only actual grocery store was Super One, and it was about five or six blocks away from where we lived. It was in a plaza with an ice-cream type of restaurant, a sit-down restaurant, and a theatre that had a grand total of three screens, that I remember. Looking it up via google, it looks like they’ve likely expanded to five screens since then, as I honestly don’t remember it being that big. I only remember two or three screens at the most. Slightly aside, but I remember going to see Flubber and the reel messed up about halfway into the movie. We got free tickets to another showing of it for our trouble.

One thing that people probably wouldn’t expect when visiting is the smell. There is a paper factory in International Falls – Boise Cascade – and also another one on the other side of the Canadian border in Fort Frances, Ontario. The smell is … unique. It takes some getting used to. The closest thing I can use to describe it is the smell of cooking cabbage. Once you get used to it, you barely notice it, unless the smell happens to be particularly strong, which happened once in a while.

While I was up there, there was a lovely little store that I loved to go to. I can’t remember the name of it, unfortunately, and from what I hear it was closed down years ago. It had a wonderful variety of things from all kinds of winter wear, supplies, a large wall stacked to the brim with moccasins, and various and a sundry little toys. I got most of my beanie babies from there as well as my first pair of moccasins. I’m not sure why, but the way they are made make them excellent for warm house footwear, which is very useful when anything over zero Fahrenheit is considered a heat wave.

That was obviously the biggest difference between Georgia and Minnesota: the weather. We had to learn how to layer (and learn fast!). As southerners through and through, we really didn’t understand the concept of layering for warmth. Long underwear? Unheard of, except in maybe movies or the like. And at that level of cold, gloves and a hat are a must, not a maybe. I’ve also lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and while it gets cold in the winter, hats and gloves aren’t required winter wear. In Minnesota, they definitely are.

There are also little differences that one probably wouldn’t expect. A “casserole” is a “hot dish”. Milk is available in bags. It’s customary to ask someone if they want something three times. And, of course, the long Minnesota goodbye, where guests and hosts can spend literally hours preparing to leave each other. There’s a German/Polish/Eastern European influence in International Falls that just isn’t quite present in rural GA, so the cuisine can offer different things as well. We had pierogies for the first time (and loved them). If one ate fried fish, it was a good chance it was walleye (which has a very good taste to it and is a plenty in Northern Minnesota). Brats and sauerkraut was a thing. Jell-o salad was a go-to for gatherings. Soft drinks were referred to as “pop” and not “coke” as they are commonly referred to in the Atlanta area of Georgia.

Overall, it was a wonderful place that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the freedom I was allowed and the places I could go just all on my own. I loved the large and spacious library that was mere blocks away. I loved the little park area that I could visit and where the Fourth of July festivals were held. I loved the quaintness of the town. I’m not sure I would like to live in a town that remote again, the kind where almost monthly trips to a city three hours away to do any decent shopping are required. But I have lovely memories of it and it certainly has quite a few high spots, despite our short stay there. It was my first glimpse into the world outside of the house on the little dirt road, and I was fascinated.

Childhood homes – Part 1

I haven’t written a blog post in a minute as I’ve had several things come up and just haven’t had the time nor inspiration for it. However, rather randomly, I thought I would go through remembering each home I grew up in. A couple of homes, we didn’t end up staying in for long, so I might condense those, but at least this one I will devote one full post to, as it’s the first home I lived in.

The first home I ever lived in was in McDonough, GA, out in the boonies. Go down one particular main road, make a turn off to a road in between two cow/horse pastures (whose cows and horses were only there briefly while I was growing up…where the owner lived and what happened to them, I have no idea), make a left at the end of that gravel road onto another gravel road, and we were the last house down that way. We only had two neighbors. Nowadays, developments have bought up all the surrounding property and housing is being put in, so it’s nowhere near as isolated as it used to be. But back then, it seemed like we were a world unto itself.

We had a nice bit of property stretching all around us. Our very large front yard was dotted with trees, but our smaller backyard was more cleared. The land was uneven, as there was a hill on one side that went up to one of our neighbors, and so our lawn was not the manicured perfection one might see in suburbia. I certainly couldn’t go out barefoot as we didn’t really know what all was out there (I did once, that I remember, and got a rusty bit of wire lodged deep in my foot for my trouble). I remember, next to the pathway that went from the driveway to the front porch, there was a dogwood tree. It was there that we had a bird bath setup, and I enjoyed watching the birds sometimes.

I also got a swing set in the front yard, with a couple of swings, a little swinging device that sat two kids on either side (I’m not really sure what it was called…you didn’t really need two on either side, but it was just normally meant that way), and also a slide. It wasn’t an elaborate setup, but I enjoyed playing around on it.

Between what I would call our main front yard and the road, there was just an open field of grass. I remember my dad had taken me out there to try to teach me how to use a baseball bat, but I was woefully unsuccessful at picking up the proper hand-eye coordination. We still played catch sometimes, though, using a tennis-type of ball and these velcro catchers. Other than that, I don’t remember playing much with him. I watched him doing home repairs and various things over the years, and I became his little helper by handing him tools and supplies, but playing? I don’t remember much of that.

My parents built the house that we were in. By the time I came along, they’d added on to it, so it had three bedrooms upstairs, plus an office space and a storage space in the finished basement (which I eventually got a little play area set up in the basement as well). My room was rather large, with a closet that stretched from wall to wall. On one side of my closet, there was a small alcove I could climb up into. I spent time in there reading, it was a little safe place for me. I loved it.

Since I came along so long after my siblings (my sister and brother were 18 and 16, respectively, when I was born), the third bedroom was converted into a study area that was then used as our little school room once I was started on homeschooling. It was pretty small, but it fit our needs just right. My mother also had her sewing machine and supplies in there as well.

The master bedroom was nice and spacious, with its own bathroom and a walk-in closet. I remember one time, during homeschooling, my mother was teaching me about how some Christians were persecuted in other countries, so she had us pretend like we were them. We wore scarves to conceal our identities and we had to sneak around and get to the closet, knock, and then do our Bible lesson there in private, in the near dark. I’m not sure why, but it upset me greatly and scared the shit out of me, so she actually stopped the lesson and we finished it outside of the closet.

We had a pretty nice kitchen set up with a lot of counter space. The washer and dryer were also in the kitchen, but they were easily hid with sliding doors when they weren’t being used. Walking through the kitchen, one would arrive in the dining room area. It wasn’t overly large, but it was barely partitioned off from the kitchen, so it was like a big open space. For a while, our piano was along one wall, and we eventually had a computer set up there. It was one of the ancient ones that had the four separate boxes on the screen with the programs listed. I always liked to play tetris and solitaire and eventually pinball. We had no internet, obviously, and I had no real use of the computer other than the occasional game.

A door on one side of the dining room was our side door, and my parents eventually put up a nice little deck there. It was a nice little size, though nowhere near as big as the front porch that stretched across most of the front of the house. I remember one year, a bird built her nest in one of the shelves we had out there. I loved peeking in at the eggs and then the baby birds once they hatched, though I had to be cautioned against handling them as I wanted to pet them.

When we eventually got a couple of goats, we fashioned a pen out in our back yard for them. The pen was just into the treeline, so they wouldn’t be directly exposed to wind, and my dad built an overhang for them and we had a couple of igloo-type of shelters for them to get into when it got cold. I loved having them, and I’d play around with them. The kids they had were especially adorable, the way they’d just jump around and run and skip.

While there were plenty of trees surrounding us, there was only one that was any good for climbing. Most – if they weren’t evergreen – didn’t have branches that were low-hanging enough for me. There was only one, beside the goat pen, that I was able to scale. I remember the first time I was able to climb it, I felt incredibly triumphant. It wasn’t very high, but I still climbed it!

One very specific thing I remember … we had a garage that was built in to our house (it sat below the master bedroom), but as far as I remember, the vehicles were never put in there. It was used as storage, but not vehicle storage. I remember when we moved and my parents started putting the cars in a garage, I thought it was such a novel concept, as I’d previously thought that a garage was pretty much just for storage. I must have seen other people put cars in garages – my sister, specifically, comes to mind – but I guess it didn’t really click for me until I saw my parents do it.

Going up the pathway to the front porch and through the front door, we had no entryway, the front door just opened up into the living room. We had a large picture window, and we had a small TV set up there. We didn’t have cable or satellite or even an antenna until ’96 when the Olympics came in town, but we had a VHS player and we played a lot of movies. There was a nice fireplace across from the sofa, but it was never used throughout the whole time that I was there. I’m not sure if my parents ever used it, but when I was maybe 6 or 7, they had the fireplace taken out and they put the piano there. I remember I was initially upset, as even though the fireplace wasn’t used, I still loved it. I watched the contractor – a church friend of my parents – tear it out, insulate the wall, and patch it up. While I was initially unhappy with the change, I eventually got used to it.

I really loved that house. Even though we were pretty isolated, I loved the freedom I had to roam around the yard and the treeline and play. And while I sometimes wished I could go outside without having to put on shoes, I was pretty content. I’d actually randomly thought here and there about what if my family moved, even just to another home, and I’d start thinking about all the things I liked about our house and decide emphatically that I never wanted to move away. Funny how when my parents announced that we were going to move to Minnesota and asked me if I would like that, something just clicked in my mind and I said I would like it. I’m not sure what happened that day that changed my view, but it was very quick and sudden, like someone flipped a switch in my mind, and I was all of a sudden okay with moving away and losing the friends and community I had.

Since we moved several times still throughout my life, perhaps that is why I find moving to be an easy thing, mentally. While, at each place I’ve lived, there are places that I love, I don’t find myself tied to one particular area so much that I would never leave. I sometimes do wonder what it would be like to feel that kind of connection, but it doesn’t bother me that I don’t have that. I like the semi-nomadic life I’ve had. I’ve experienced a range of things I never would have otherwise. And I have a pretty good sneaking suspicion that I won’t live out the rest of my life here in Minnesota … and possibly not even in the United States. 😉


This post was prompted by a video shared on a forum I’m in that features a bunch of adults acting out a certain song that was rather commonly sung at VBS. And while I thought it pretty sad that grown adults were acting out all the motions to a kids song, it got me remembering my own experiences.

Ah, VBS. Vacation Bible School. It was a time of the year that I looked forward to. School was out for the summer. I got to go to church (a central part of my childhood) and see and play with my friends (since for a good chunk of my schooling, I was homeschooled, I didn’t get to see my friends anywhere but church). Snacks were usually involved in some way, and I swear those church ladies knew how to make the meanest rice krispy treats. And those little plastic juice barrels! Oh yes, you knew it was a good day at VBS when they brought out the juice barrels. That and those little cups of vanilla ice cream with the strawberry or chocolate flavour swirls in them.

I went to a lot of VBS’ over the years, at several different churches. Even though they were all different in some little way, they followed the same basic principle. Play time, singing time, story time, snack time, bible time…sometimes memorization was involved similar to AWANA. There was usually some sort of fundraiser type of thing that happened. I never really won anything with that, as during that time, my family wasn’t able to give me much to donate. I didn’t really like that they did that, because it seemed to isolate the kids who weren’t able to give and rewarded the kids who were with…things that they could have afforded to buy themselves. I tried not to feel too jealous, but sometimes it was hard. I wouldn’t say we were “poor” exactly, but we weren’t exactly diving in the vault ala Scrooge McDuck.

Aside from those awkward feelings, I still had plenty of fun. It mostly seemed to be a super-charged combination of AWANA and children’s church. There was usually a theme for the week and the stories and decor went along with that theme. Story time was usually hit or miss, depending on who was doing it. If it was my mother, I knew it would be good. She was a great storyteller, and she used felt boards to illustrate the story as she was telling it. Some people would use a felt board and it would be awkward, but she used it masterfully. I was always entranced, even if she was telling a story I’d heard at least a dozen times before. I remember watching her carefully cut out the various figures from new story sets, being careful to place them oh so exactly in a box so they wouldn’t rip. I wasn’t allowed to touch and play with them when I was younger, but I always watched her and wondered what story she’d be telling next.

The ultimate guilty pleasure of VBS was, of course, Veggie Tales. I had to google this because I didn’t remember the exact year, but it came out for the first time in December of ’93, so by VBS of ’94, there were videos at the ready to play. It was usually Friday, the last day of VBS, unless a teacher wasn’t feeling well or particularly prepared and decided to opt for a video. We loved watching Veggie Tales, especially singing along with Silly Songs with Larry. Today, I think the great thing about Silly Songs is that the songs have nothing to do with any religious message, really, they’re just silly and fun. Kids need that. Growing up in the church the way I did, we were constantly bombarded with Jesus and the Bible and messages from all angles, even when we were just trying to play. We really just wanted to bust out and have fun without it having to involve religion. And even though the rest of the video was chock-full of religious messages, the Silly Songs part was the one part that I could look forward to and know that I didn’t have to pay attention for a message.

The last time I was ever involved in VBS in any way was when I operated the puppets in my teens. By that time, my religion was losing his luster and VBS no longer held the appeal it once did as a child. The songs that I’d previously had fun singing and acting out were corny, contrived, and condescending in a way. The stories were old, having been told hundreds and hundreds of times before in more entertaining ways. The shiny facade was gone, like adults find in so many things from childhood, but in my case specifically, it was still present for a time, taunting me in a way. The joy experienced by the children, while wonderful for them and wonderful for me to bring out of them, was not the same as I experienced. I tried desperately to hold on for years, to convince myself that I was happy in this faith, that this was my life. But while it was, it wasn’t in a sense. It wasn’t the real me. I only said I believed because I didn’t have any other option.

While I’ll still look back on those summers with fond memories, that’s all they are for me anymore. They have no power to draw me back to a church I can’t reconcile my personal beliefs with. While they may seem to haunt me at particular times, they have no true hold over me. Any pang of hurt I feel came after, and I understand that. I work to separate that. The bad memories don’t overshadow the good memories, nor do they cancel each other out. They exist side by side, hand in hand, simply as they are. That is one thing that I’m trying to keep in mind while writing this blog: that while some memories are painful, and some hurt, that the good memories surrounding them shouldn’t bring on that same hurt. I try to just look at them as they are, acknowledge them, allow myself to remember the good as it was, untainted by any bad memories. Just because they may be surrounded by bad ones doesn’t mean that they are bad themselves, and remembering them as they are should only bring back a sense of nostalgia, not of pain.

When I previously tried to remember certain things about my childhood, I only ended up getting depressed. Indeed, my fiance was concerned when I started this blog, not wanting me to go through a downward spiral that he knew I was capable of doing. But I’m working towards bettering myself, and I’m evolving and growing, and I’m trying to change my point of view of my past. And, by changing my point of view, owning it.

I am Elisabeth. Former fundamental, evangelical Independent Baptist. Today I am a hippie-ish, body modded Pagan. In the future … I don’t know. Who really knows? Life is a constant journey, and takes us to different places. Some things stay the same, other things change, but what I’ve found to be true is that the journey of self-discovery is never truly over, and that we should embrace it.


One of my coworkers was talking about doing puppets at her church, and I was reminded of my own experience with puppets.

When I was about 14, I volunteered to be backstage help with a specific children’s church puppet program at the church I was in. I didn’t work the puppets, but I basically helped direct everything backstage. We had quite the elaborate setup, so we actually helped the actors out quite a bit as they transitioned from doing their people characters on the stage and then coming backstage to take over doing puppet characters. I loved doing it, it was very rewarding work. I did it for two years, giving me some nice backstage experience.

By the time I was 16, I was in another church that was even more conservative than the previous one. It was actually a lot closer to the Baptist churches I had grown up in. My mother signed up to do an age segment of VBS one year, and between us we decided that I would do a puppet opposite to her to help with the lesson. I wrote the scripts myself based off of the lessons she had, got a tiny stage setup done, and we were good to go! I actually used a Hush Puppy puppet that I still had from childhood and christened him “Norman Kaddidleski”. It was such a rousing success that at the end of the week, we had all the age groups get together to enjoy the puppet show.

The next year, Norman was a given, he had been such a hit. They actually ended up combining the age groups for the lesson time so everyone could enjoy him, and he got a proper stage set up in the front of the church. It was great fun. I enjoyed writing the scripts and performing for the kids. There was a time where I even considered if this was possibly my calling in life, to put on puppet shows for children that put a comedic spin on a righteous message. I really sold myself on it, too.

Unfortunately, things unraveled. I started having some spiritual issues here and there, though none I specifically disclosed to anyone aside from counselors at a leadership camp I attended. However, after I returned from that camp for the last time (I was at the max age), it seemed that my church treated me differently. Despite his popularity, Norman was never brought back for VBS or anything else. I was somewhat distraught, as I had very much enjoyed it and I knew that the children and even the adults enjoyed it. I suspect that someone from the camp had corresponded with my pastor (since they had his information, as I had to have a letter of recommendation from him to attend) and that led to me not being able to participate in something that had been particularly fulfilling to me. I think that’s one thing about fundamental Christianity that I really dislike: if there are any perceived weaknesses, instead of offering real help and support, the person is punished and restricted until they “get right”. It makes going through things like depression and anxiety a real shame, at least where I was, because it was a sign of spiritual weakness. Sure, I had issues with depression and I had questions, but was that any reason to bar me from an activity that I enjoyed and that also brought joy to others?

Nowadays, of course, I’m glad that the whole Christian puppetry thing didn’t work out, seeing as I’m not a Christian anymore, which would make things rather awkward. But I still wish that my season of puppetry had ended on a better note than it did.

Happy Samhain

This is one of my favourite holidays now. As a pagan, I now appreciate the roots of the holiday better than I ever did as a Christian. Growing up fundamental and then transitioning through more liberal churches, I’ve seen a variety of reactions to Halloween, from outright disgust to attempts to adapt around it ala trunk or treat activities and harvest festivals.

When I was a child, we barely even acknowledged that Halloween existed. I remember our school calendar my mother did when we were homeschooling…she would decorate it each month with season-appropriate decorations. When it came to October, though, it was all leaves and harvest stuff. No witches or ghosts or little vampires in sight. We didn’t trick or treat or dress up, which is what really got under my skin the most as I loved playing dress-up as a child, so to me it seemed like I was missing out on the biggest dress-up party of all! I remember going through a store like Wal-Mart or K-Mart and seeing the costume aisle. If I could, I darted down the aisle to look at the costumes. Mostly, I just looked on longingly, internally sighing in frustration that such a fun holiday was deemed off-limits.

Curiously enough, we still carved pumpkins. I remember making the trek up to Dawsonville to visit Burt’s Pumpkin Farm. It wasn’t a short trip, but it was worth it. The air was nice and crisp and there were so many pumpkins lined up and ready for sale, all kinds of sizes and colours available. I remember pictures being taken, of me in a row of pumpkins, sitting on very large pumpkins, sitting next to a scarecrow, riding one of the hay rides. I’m not sure where all the pictures are now, but I remember the farm clearly even without them, just as I remember the little tiny pumpkin my parents bought me. It was so small, it fit well in my hand, even though I couldn’t have been more than 4 at the time. When we got back to the house, we carved the bigger pumpkin we got on the front porch and I was posed for a picture.

When we moved up to International Falls, that October, my parents relented on trick or treating. It was the first and only time I ever got to trick or treat, as my parents put the foot back down the next year. I remember I was so excited to finally get to participate, even though I didn’t have a proper costume. I grabbed an old flannel gown that went down to my feet and put on a long wig I’d bought for dress-up purposes. I wasn’t going for anything in particular, but I liked long dresses and my wig, so it worked. I had to wear a coat, because it was very cold, but I didn’t even notice as a couple of friends and I went from house to house. I don’t remember how long we were out or how many houses we went to, but I got a nice load of candy along with a few homemade treats. I wished it could last forever.

The next year, I had acted out doing something or another, and my parents decided that proper punishment was barring me from trick or treating. I shed many tears and tried my best to act good to try to convince them to let me, but I remember my father eventually admitted that they didn’t want me doing it anyway. I was crushed. That was probably the worst thing I could have heard. If they didn’t want me doing it anyway, then why had they let me the year before? I didn’t know the term at the time, obviously, but today I would call it a dick tease, because that’s definitely what it was. I’m glad I did get to experience one normal Halloween, but the ache of never being able to do it again is not small.

Maybe that seems petty, but it’s how I feel. I missed out on a lot of things growing up, some little, some big. But with every thing I missed out on because I wasn’t allowed to, because of religion and Christianity, it just burns a little more.

When my fiance and I tie the knot and we start having children, I’ll definitely be allowing them to participate in Halloween. I even have costume ideas at the ready for when they’re babies (I’m totally transforming a bear costume into a mini-ewok). When they grow up, if they want to participate less, I won’t force them to still do it. I’ll be grateful that they were given the chance to do it and then decided against it, rather than never having the chance at all. And if they want, I’ll explain the pagan roots of the holiday, and why I’m setting out an extra plate of food and why I won’t talk during dinner. And if they think I’m silly, then they’ll think I’m silly. But if they want to start participating in that with me, then they’ll be more than welcome to.

I think that’s the thing I miss the most in my childhood: choice. Sure, parents need to guide their children into making appropriate choices, but there are quite a few things that they should be able to decide for themselves that I was never allowed to. I never had the option of not going to or participating in church. I never had the option to explore other religions and belief systems for myself to see if it spoke to me. I never had the option to not be a Christian, or accept my parents strict beliefs and and rules regarding their faith instead of searching out what was comfortable to me and spoke to me. If I had, perhaps I would still be a Christian today, on the liberal end of the spectrum. Or perhaps Paganism would have still called to me. Either way, when I have children, I will want to let them think and decide for themselves, without just one option being presented as the only option.

I have a few more post ideas, but I think this will be the only one for today. Thanks for reading, and have a Happy Samhain. 🙂

Memory Triggers – Songs

This is now the third entry into specific memory triggers of mine (and the last one for today, I promise!). The previous entries have covered one particular scent and phrases. This entry will cover songs, and will probably be longer as there’s more that was coming to me as I was writing. Since there’s a lot to explain in some parts, this might end up a little more ramble-y about music in general, but I’ll start off with the specifics that I first had in mind.

A couple of weeks ago, my fiance started singing this little song that I recognized from my childhood. He had heard it from The Simpsons – who wasn’t singing it exact to the original, simply the melody and a few terms – but of course, I remembered it from somewhere else. While I knew the song as “Rise and Shine”, he simply quoted a line about getting the animals on the “arky arky”, which is a specific term in that song and a theme in every other line to end in a “-y” sound. While the song doesn’t tie to a specific memory – which isn’t surprising, considering it was a pretty common christian children’s song when I was growing up – it does bring back memories of churches I’ve been in, children’s groups, children’s church, even AWANA.

Several different songs like that will take me back, especially old hymns. One in particular – “Just As I Am” – was very popular as an altar call song, but it would always make me groan when I saw it listed in the bulletin. For those who may not know, “Just As I Am” is typically sung very slowly, somewhat softly, and is so boring repetitive that it can be repeated very easily, almost without the congregation noticing. If the pastor wanted to extend the altar call for whatever reason, signaling the pianist/organist was a very simple matter. Just thinking about the melody immediately transports me, usually to a specific church that we attended when living in GA. The layout and everything comes back, even down to where we usually sat: third or fourth row, organ side.

I’ll admit, there were times I would get so bored during a long altar call, I’d go up myself, kneel at the steps, close my eyes and just rest my forehead against the top step. I did so just to give myself a break from standing. I don’t know if anyone else ever did that, but I accumulated little tricks that I now call “church hacks” to make church more bearable for myself. My favourite time was probably mission times, where various missionaries would come through. They’d usually have a little table set-up similar to what you’d expect at a science fair, and I’d love looking at them. Sometimes it was pretty plain with just a lot of writing and some pictures, but my favourite ones were picture heavy and also featured little bits and bobs from the various foreign countries that the missionaries went to. If a sermon or presentation got boring, I’d leave on the pretense of a bathroom break (or water break, though bathroom breaks afforded me a reasonably longer time away) and just wander around the atrium areas where the tables were set up, looking at the ones that really caught my eye.

Back to the topic of songs, conversely, certain songs would excite me to see listed on the bulletin. If “I Surrender All” was listed as the alter call song, that would mean that the invitation would be short, and we’d get to go home sooner. When we started attending churches that weren’t as strict with their music and did praise and worship songs, there were certain ones that incorporated simple hand motions or just plain clapping. Anything to avoid just standing there still. I swear I’ve spent years just standing in church. As a teen, it got to the point where I’d over-exaggerate some back problems I really did have just so they would allow me to sit for certain portions of the service that we normally would have had to stand for. Well, perhaps I over-exaggerated, or perhaps I just expressed how I really felt as I did have back problems that I knew would be exacerbated and I wanted to head them off before I actually got into an “ouch” level of pain.

When I was little, no secular music was permitted at all. It was hymns and southern gospel songs only. My parents loved the Gaithers and bought quite a few cassette and vhs tapes featuring their singing. At first, I liked them just because it was different than the hymns we usually had. A lot of songs were more upbeat and “swing-y” (in my terminology only, as a child, it just meant that it was more lively) and sometimes even featured an actual beat! With drums! Haha, I know certain people that would clutch their figurative pearls at the thought of songs with beats. Devil music! But my parents liked it, so it was permitted. Soon enough, though, their songs got so repetitive and similar that it just all blended together for me and I began to dislike it. Whenever I would hear a snippet of a song I would start internally cringing, and I still do to this day.

Later on, my parents loosened the reigns on music little by little. Old country music became okay. When I was a pre-teen – probably 12 or so – I literally had to beg my parents to allow me to buy a Steven Curtis Chapman cassette. I am not exaggerating when I use the term “literally”. Let that sink in. For anyone who doesn’t know who Steven Curtis Chapman is, he’s a CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artist whose music is pretty much easy listening/light-rock style, but with Christian lyrics and themes. He is not in any way possibly offensive, being a visible family man and not having any songs that are borderline not-Christian (as some CCM artists sometimes have in their repertoire, especially if they were going to cross over into secular music). While I’m sure he is a perfectly nice man, he’s about as vanilla as you can get in the CCM world. I must have spent weeks pestering and badgering my parents to allow me to buy one of his tapes, and I felt incredibly triumphant when they finally relented and okay’d the purchase.

Around the time that I bought it, there was a PC game out that I’d seen advertised. I don’t remember the exact title, but it was a Barbie dance game. I never played it, but the general premise seemed to be stringing together pre-set moves in order to create a dance. I took a few of the moves and started using them to dance along to a couple of the songs on my new tape (in my room, with the door closed, because dancing was not something that was allowed in my family).

When I was 14 and going to a Christian school, I met my bestest best friend in the whole wide world, and she helped widen my horizons as far as music went. Her mother, while religious, allowed secular music, especially if she liked it. She had quite a few CDs lying around of Queen, Styx, Boston, Michael Jackson, artists like that. Classics. I remember the first time I heard a Michael Jackson song, it was amazing. It was “Billie Jean” and I was enchanted. I discretely burned a copy of the CD and listened to it on my Walkman. I did this with several other CDs, compiling playlists of classic rock to be listened to in private. I never labeled them, for fear my parents would find them and I would get in trouble, which is why I also never played them in my regular CD player. I kept them in a CD holder at all times, never leaving it lying around for long. When I started driving alone, I often kept them in the truck so I could blast them while driving to and from school.

Of course, that wasn’t my first exposure to secular music. It’s unavoidable, really, with how many stores play radio stations overhead, but my parents conditioned me to tune it out. The older I got, the more rebellious I got (or felt I got, as my rebelliousness was rather mild on the scale of rebellion…in the Christian world I was in, though, it was still worthy of getting in trouble). When I was 12 and 13, being homeschooled, my mother started going to school herself for Medical Transcription. When she had day classes she left in the morning for, I would turn on the radio to the local popular hit station 95.5 (WIFC, Wausau…I can still hear the call sign being sung) and just listen. I was always very careful to switch it back to an approved station when I was done listening, though. There was one station that came out of Pensacola, FL that we somehow got on our big radio that played some of the most boring music that my parents seemed to love. If I ever used the big radio for my listening, I was always sure to turn it back to that station before I shut it off. I couldn’t have my parents switch on the radio and have Backstreet Boys or Christina Aguilera start blaring. As Jasper Beardly would say, “That’s a paddlin’.”

I did the same when I was home alone when it came to TV as well. When we had cable when I was a teenager, I’d switch over to the “bad” channels (MTV and VH1) and watch, always careful to leave the TV with two “good” channels (in case my parents used the “last channel” feature on the remote). This was before the days of Teen Mom and Jersey Shore, where reality shows took the place of the music. I watched music videos and documentaries and countdowns and lists and absorbed information like a sponge. These days, since I’m still limited in my music exposure, I get excited when I see a reference to a music video or information about an artist that I saw on one of those channels. Kind of like Steve Rogers in the Avengers … “I understood that reference!”

These days, my tastes in music are extremely diverse, and certainly nothing like what I was raised with. I like just about everything, and even genres I don’t particularly like, there are songs that are exceptions that I enjoy. Music is one of the things I find most soothing and yet energizing to my soul to this day, and while I regret that my exposure to it was so limited growing up, I’m glad I now have the opportunity to explore.